‘EDNA’ Rubber-Stamps Headie One’s Rise To The Top

Words: Yemi Abiade


If you’ve been walking around central London for the last few days, the presence of Headie One may have felt stronger than usual, mainly due to the number of Headie-shaped statues precisely placed around the area. Immortalising himself in the heart of the UK’s capital, the statues mark the trapper-turned-rapper’s already sky-high trajectory, with a uniqueness that typifies his short and sweet career so far.

From his humble beginnings on Tottenham’s choppy streets, Irving Adjei has transformed into a fully-fledged superstar, slowly but surely evolving from his drill origins into an accomplished artist. The transition has seemed an easy one for the North Londoner, whose murky and violent tales of the bando, time in prison and discarding his opps have gripped the UK’s music scene. Since 2018’s earth-shattering “Know Better”, Headie hasn’t veered off course and, in the lead-up to debut album EDNA, warm-up projects such as The One, The One Two and Music x Road had fed the streets as he continued to cook, as well as seismic collaborations with the likes of Drake, Skepta, Stormzy, FKA twigs, Sampha and more.

Headie threatened dissension among his fanbase earlier this year with the drop of his collaborative mixtape, GANG, with electronic producer Fred Again, a project deemed by some to have gone too far left of his trademark sound. But those who disliked it weren’t listening, for Headie’s sonic and lyrical scope was expanding in real time. His debut album was long awaited but justified, for he has just provided his best project to date. With 20 tracks, Headie is in masterful form on EDNA, named after his late mother, and the album represents a level up from top to bottom. Opening track “Teach Me”, with a mantra that carries throughout the project, sees Headie repentant of the path he chose, seeking the guidance to make the good decisions that the presence of his mother would have guaranteed.

The quest for forgiveness continues on “Psalm 35”, the Bible passage that kept him sane during his time in prison. In his mother’s absence, a devotion to God has provided a source of therapy and protection for Headie and a second chance to improve his life, as he raps: “I’m living proof prayer is needed.” Despite this, the memories of the trap persist, further complicating the narrative of the album. Despite his acknowledgment of his mistakes, tracks such as “Bumpy Ride”, “Triple Science” and “21 Gun Salute” prove Headie is more than owning his past, almost revelling in it. By the time of “The Light”, with a gorgeous reimagination of Kanye West’s “All Of The Lights” (the closest Kanye may ever get to a drill beat), Headie is seemingly more than ready to leave his past behind. Despite the sombre tone throughout, Headie levels out EDNA by exhibiting a softer side. Tender cuts like “Princess Cuts”, “Everything Nice” and “You/Me” exhibit Headie’s growing ability to level with the opposite sex amongst the madness that is his life.

As has become his trademark, Headie One tests the waters sonically, from the prototypical drill of “Teach Me” and “Psalm 35”, to trap-flavoured tracks such as “Bumpy Ride”. Getting the very best out of producers such as M1OnTheBeat, Kenny Beats, 169, TSB and many more, Headie’s commanding storytelling and innate ability to transport the listener to his situation remains EDNA’s foundation. Headie’s guests also came to play. From Skepta and Future to Aitch and Ivorian Doll, he proves he has great chemistry with almost everyone, adapting to each of their styles with ease.

If EDNA proves anything, it’s that Headie continues to not only test himself sonically and conceptually, but to keep the scene on its toes with impeccable results. As his artistry grows, so does his scope for introspection and dissecting his demons through his music, and he has used his music as his release, from the life that threatened to derail his career before it really began. EDNA rubber-stamps his titanic ascent.

Posted on October 09, 2020